17 Perished in School Fire
Montreal Gazette Wednesday February 27, 1907
Lady Principal and 16 of Her Pupils were the Victims
CUT OFF BY SMOKE
Hochelaga Protestant School the Scene of the Disaster.
Little Ones Suffocated.
Miss Maxwell, the principal lost her life trying to save the pupils
Pathetic scenes at the burning school and at the morgue last night.
LIST OF THE DEAD
Miss Sarah Maxwell, school principal, aged 31; lived at 479a St. Urbain street, with her mother.
Wm. John Zimmerman, aged 7, 411 Aylwin street; identified by his father, W. Zimmerman. Was his only child.
James Pilkington Lindley, aged 6, 119 Aylwin street; identified by his father, James Pilkington Lindley.
Edith Golson, aged 6 years and 8 months, 311 Stadacona street. Daughter of John Golson, machinist.
Albert Edward Jackson, aged 6 of 22 Wurtele street, son of John H. Jackson, cotton expert at Alaska Feather and Down Works.
Lillian Rich, aged 5, of 26 Marlborough street, daughter of Harrison Rich, carpenter. Identified by Thomas Williams.
Myrtle Spraggs and Mabel Spraggs, aged 5 and 3 years respectively, daughters of A. Spraggs, builder 1726 East St. Catherine.
Edna Davey, aged 5 and a half years, 14 Marlborough street, daughter of John Davey, engineer.
James McPherson, aged 7 333 Prefontaine street, son of James McPherson, foreman G.N.R. freight sheds.
Annie Jackson Andrew, aged 8, daughter of Henry Jackson Andrew, of 63 Cuvillier street.
Cecilia Forbes, aged 6, daughter of Thomas Forbes, compositor, of 59 Cuvillier street.
John Lomas, aged 6, son of George Lomas, bleacher, of 111 Davidson street.
Jalmer Frederick Anderson, aged 6 and a half years only child of J.F. Anderson, of 94 St. Germain street.
Gladys Hingston, aged 6, daughter of Wm. Hingston, foreman, 57a Rouville street.
Joseph Johnson, aged 7, 424 Cuvillier street, younger son of Thos. Johnson, timekeeper at Angus shops.
Ethel Lambton, aged 5 and a half years, daughter of Geo. Lambton, foreman, of 345 Moreau street.
By one of the most shocking disasters that has ever befallen Montreal in many years sixteen children lost their lives yesterday afternoon at the Hochelaga Protestant School, while their principal, Miss Sarah Maxwell, perished with them after a heroic exhibition of courage in endeavouring to save their lives. The outstanding feature of the catastrophe, besides the loss of life, is the heroism of the lady teachers of the school, who united in risking their lives in the effort to save those of their little pupils.
In the building were a hundred and fifty young children under the charge ---damaged section of microfilm---out of the building and as little alarm as possible. Not a word was said of danger, but in each class room the order was given to the children to put on their clothes and hasten home.
But the fire spread with such rapidity that almost half the children, and the youngest ones, were shut off in the upper storey. There were no fire escapes; the smoke prevented their going downstairs, and no other method of escape was possible.
Although within a few minutes of the outbreak neighboring workmen had a ladder at one of the upper windows and rescued fully a score, and a few minutes later the firemen had arrived and saved some forty more, sixteen of the little ones, eight boys and eight girls, were suffocated, and their principal fell a victim with them, while Miss Keyes was only taken out of the building with her clothes on fire, and in a fainting condition. It would have been easy for Miss Maxwell, the principal, to have saved herself, but with the flames fast closing in she refused the call of the firemen, and once more braved the burning room to search for the others she knew were in peril. She did not find them, but died in the attempt.
Chief Benoit and the other officers of the fire brigade who were on the scene, are emphatic that had there been proper fire escapes not a life need have been lost.
The firemen first applied themsleves to saving life, without regard for the building, and their work was rewarded by the carrying to safety of close upon half a hundred children. A living chain of firemen lined a ladder, and with Capt. Carson at the top, and the teachers inside, the little ones were one by one handed out and passed down to safety. Towards the end the flames crept so close, and the smoke so surrounded the men on the upper rungs that streams of water had to be played on them that they might stay there, and as fast as the water fell it froze on their clothes in the bitter cold while the streams from below soaked them through.
The fire broke out about 1:45, in the basement, having evidently originated from an overheated furnace. The building was heated by hot air, and the big pipes served as the flues to carry the smoke and flames all over the building, so that within five minutes of the first alarm it was completely enveloped. It was the smokethat proved so fatal. Few of the children were burned, and subsequent examination showed that even these few had died from suffocation before the flames reached them.
Many scenes of deep pathos were witnessed both at the fire and at the morgue, as parents recognized the blackened remains of their children. In one case a father, Mr. Andrew Spraggs, lost two daughters, one of whom was in kindergarten, while the younger had gone for the first time to visit her sister. It was in the kindergarten that the most dreadful fatality occurred, almost all of the dead ranging from three to eight years old.
Before a box alarm was sent in a telephone call was received at No. 13 fire station, which is located about five hundred yards from the school. As Captain Carson and his men were leaving the station an alarm was turned in from box 814, at the corner of East St. Catherine and Prefontaine streets. Before the call from the street box had finished ringing, the firemen were at the school.
The fire had a big start and so speedily had the flames spread that even in these few minutes those children who had not escaped at the first call from the teachers were huddled in the upper flats of the school, with a seething furnace of smoke and flames beneath them.
At every window were seen the imprisoned children and teachers, while from the windowsof the lower flat nothing could be seen but evidences of fire.
Capt. Carson at once organized his men to setup an extension ladder to the second storey window, where Miss Maxwell and Miss Keyes signalling for help. The ladder was promptly run up, and every man who could crowd upon it got in position to make a living chain to rescue the little ones. Cap. Carson headed the ladder, inside the window was Miss Maxwell, surrounded by a swarm of children, all excited and terrified.
As soon as the firemen had formed their living chain to safety Miss Maxwell handed her little pupils one by one to Capt. Carson, and they were swiftly passed don the ladder from hand to hand to the ground. Thus the work went on untill probably forty of the children had been saved, and it seemed that none were left. Then Capt. Carson called to Miss Maxwell to save herself. "No, there are others inside, and we must save them," she replied, and ran back to look fo the other little ones, whom she knew must be on the upper floor. That was the last seen of her.
"Miss Maxwell ran back, and we called her to come out, as the room was full of smoke and flames," said Capt. Carson. "Then she disappeared in the smoke, and we could not locate her again. It was all we could do, and an hour later on her body was carried through the window, along with those of the children she had tried so hard to save."
That is the whole stroy of the fire. It was confusion at a time when confusion meant death to those who were utterly unable to understand why they met it. From those older authorities, who should have supplied the necessary means of escape, there was no help. The building was an old fashioned one, with crooked stairways, narrow passages, and not a single fire escape. Had there been a fire escape the firemen were positive that there need not have been one life lost.
The fire broke out in the cellar, where there were two furnaces for the hot air heating system, and large piles of wood. One of the children on the ground floor went out into the corridor, and returned in excitement, and hurried to Principal Miss Maxwell and told her he had seen a lot of smoke coming up. Miss Maxwell, without frightening her pupils, told them to get their clothes and hurry home. As a result it seems that every pupil on the ground floor got away safely.
Then Miss Maxwell ran upstairs and warned the other teachers, and the same order was given.
But the fire spread rapidly, and by the time that the upstairs pupils had been notified by their teachers to get their clothes and go home, the stairway was full of smoke, and the little ones were afraid to venture. The kindergarten was on the upper floor, and most of the classes there were composed of very young children, and they all became so excited at the sight of the curling smoke that they were afraid to run to safety when they reached the stairway. One of the older pupils ran down and called the others, many of whom followed, but in the terrified confusion of the moment a great many of the others were afraid to take the venture downstairs, and stayed where they were.
By the heroism of the teachers and the courageous work of the firemen, many of these were saved. The long line of overweighted abulances, and the sad procession of tiny smoke blackened corpses, told the rest of the story.
The firemen worked heroically, and but for their exertions the death roll would have been much greater. On the top of the ladders where they had to be sprayed from the hose, they labored to get at windows and hand out childrenwith the water freezing on them as it fell, and never stayed their work as long as it seemed possible that a living soul could be taken out. Several of them became exhausted by the cold and terrible work, while others were cut and hurt by the rough handling of hose and ladders, and had to be attended to by the ambulance doctors.
Not a child was taken from the building injured. The children were either taken out sound, or carried down as corpses. All who were able to move were secured by the firemen before the flames drove them back. The ambulances later took the rest to the morgue.
BRINGING OUT THE BODIES
The scene as the firemen gradually gained control of the flames was most pathetic. The firemen and police kept the crowd back by a cordon so they could work without difficulty. As soon as the first signs of victory becme apparent, ladders were placed aganst the walls, and eager volunteers swarmed up to see if there were any left who might yet live. It wasa forlorn hope, and a groan went up from the thousands gathered around as a huddled-up bundle was first passed through an upper window. No one needed to be told what it was. Carefully the firemen caried the tiny corpse down the ladder and hurried to the nearest ambulance. His progress was stopped by an almost hysterical woman, who ran up, pulled back the blanket with whch the body had been swathed; and examined it to see if it were her little boy. It was not, but later on her child's body was taken out. Such scenes were repeated again and again as the grim procession continued, the little bodies being huddled through the windows, hastily wrapped in blankets and caried down to the waiting line of ambulances, which would take them to the morgue.
Few of the smoke-blackened bodies could be identified in the hurry of the moment, and on all sides were agonized mothers, whose children had not returned with the others, waiting to have their worst fears realized. That they were fulfilled was frequently most painfully apparent, as a woman would recognize the clothes on a shapeless little bundle, and be led away sobbing.
Finally the work of emptying the kindergarten room was completed, and it was hoped that after eight bodies had been taken out the tale of the dead was all told, when, with difficulty, the body of the heroic Miss Maxwell was carried down the fire ladder from the upper window.
But that was far from all. A few minutes later, when the firemen had succeeded in getting into the front windows of the building, a hush fell on the crowd as another child corpse was taken out, which was followed by others, most of which were taken from the windows of the dressing-room, untill the total of almost a score was reached.
By this time the fire itself had been almost subdued. It burned with ferocity, despite the tons of water poured into the building.
One other body was found, that of a little girl of about five, who had run into a corner, where she fell. She was not burned, but was blackened all over with the fumes, and soaked wth water from the hose, which freezing, stiffened the little body into a heart-rending aspect as it was carried down the ladder, with arms and head waving in the wind.
That ended the holocaust. Death had told its full tale, and all that remained was to subdue the embers of the fire and identify the rows of child corpses at the morgue- a task which for hours harrowed the feelings of all unfortunate enough to witness the despair of parent after parent as their little loved ones were identified--often merely by clothing, so thoroughly had the smoke and heat done their work.
A few minutes later Sub-Chief St. Pierre was able to get into the building and went through it from room to room, finally announcing that not a body remained in the death trap.
Had it not been for the work of outsiders, however, the death roll would have been evn greater than it was. Immediately opposite the building was an ice house, where two men, William Wlash and Moise Rainville were working. They saw the smoke before the alarm was given, and a moment later discovered tht a serious fire was in progress. At the same moment a man rushed across the street and told them that there were many children in danger.
With presence of mind the two men at once secured ladders and ran across to the burning building to rescue whom they could. Placing these ladders against the windows of the dressing room, they found a scene of panic inside, the children, awed by the smoke and crushing against the window, afraid to get out. The two men saved fully 20 of them, taking them out of the windo and laboriously carying them down the ladder in their arms before the fireman arrived on the scene. While they wer engaged in this work, a third fellow-workman, Theophile Cavignan, who had run to pull the fire alarm, joined them, and aided in getting the terrified children to safety.
CAPTAIN CARSON'S STORY
Tells How the Principal Lost Her Life
"Not one of all those lives would have been lost if there had been fire escapes even on the front windows of the school," said Capt. Carson, of No. 13 station, which is close to the scene of the fire. "We got on the scene a few moments after the alarm was sounded -almost before the gong had stopped ringing, and I am certain that if there had been proper fire escapes we could have saved every teacher and child. From what I saw it seems plain that the fire spread so quickly that the stairs were full of smoke, and as soon as the children ran out they were overcome by it, and had to get back into the school rooms. That was where we found their bodies afterwards, except for a few in the dressing room.
"It took some time to get our ladders up, and when we did we found the upstairs room full of smoke. We crowded the ladder with all the firemen that could get on to it, trying to save life before the building. We made a living chain on the ladder, and Miss Maxwell was insidethe window, handing the children out to us from the kindergarten room. She handed, I would think, about twenty children out, and as she handed me the last one we could see I asked her to come. "No," she replied, "there may be others back there." Then she ran back into the smoke, and I saw her fall in the gloom. The fire broke into the room, and nothing could be done, Miss Maxwell went to her death, like a true heroine, and all we could do was to retreat and leave her body untill the flames were conquered.
"When we got to the fire." continued Capt. Carson, "I met Mr. William Hingston, whose little girl was upstairs. We tried to force our way up, but the smoke was so dense that it drove us back when we were half-way up; in fact we had great difficulty in getting out again. Later on again I had the duty of bringing out the body of Mr. Hingston's child."
Chief Benoit and the other officers of the fire brigade were all equally indignant at the absence of fire escape appliances on the school building, and declared that had there been any reasonable care in this direction there would have been little or no loss of life. "Had there been fire escapes on each side of the building," said the chief, "there would not have been a life lost, because those active youngsters could have run down them much easier than a man could."
MISS KEYES STORY.
Teacher Tells of Scenes on the Second Floor.
Miss E.E.M. Keyes, who was in charge of the preparatory, or kindergarten, class, which occupies the room on the second floor of the building, and in which most of the children lost their lives, was seen at her home, 1030 Dorion street, Delorimier, last night. She was still suffering from the effects of the ordeal through which she had passed, and both her hands were bandaged, having cut them when she smashed the glass in the class room window to allow air to the suffocating children.
Miss Keyes said that when she first noticed the smoke coming through the ventilator in the class room, she did not think it was anything serious, as she had observed the same at other times, when the furnace did not seem to be going well; but as it was annoying the children she left the room and went up to the next landing to see Mrs. Hand, the caretaker. When she came downstairs with Mrs. Hand, they met Miss Maxwell coming up to get Mrs. Hand to learn what was wrong. They met on the landing of the second floor, and Miss Maxwell, opening the door of the preparatory class room. said: "Why, the smoke in Miss Karley's room is ten times worse than yours." Miss Keyes said that she then went back to her class, and as she new there was something serious wrong, she requested the children to follow her, and she led them out to the stairway, but the smoke was so dense on the stairs that after going down a couple of steps, they were forced back. Then she got all the children, who were in utter confusion, int othe class room and closed the door. She gathered all the pupils near one of the windows, and then climbed upon the sill and smashed out the glass, as the children were beginning to suffocate with the thick smoke.
Miss Keyes says that when she broke the glass, she called to some men, who were working at the ice house across the street, but they told her the firemen were coming.
While she was on the window sill shouting for help, Miss Maxwell burst into the room through the smoke, and she could see blood on both her hands. They did not speak, but the children, who were around her rushed towards Miss Maxwell, who went to the window adjoining the one in which she was standing, By that time Miss Keyes said that the smoke was suffocating, and she was about to jump from the window, when the firemen came dashing up with their ladders. They first put the ladder up to the window where she was, but when she looked for the children she found they had all gone from about her. She was taken out of the window and down the ladder by one of the firemen. When she reached the ground she looked around and saw the firemen place the ladder against the window where Miss Maxwell was. She was led away just then, and did not see any of the children taken out.
Miss Keyes said that when she first went to the window some of those standing in the street called to her to go to the back of the building, but it was impossible to do that as the smoke was worse in the hallway than in the class-room. She said that had the ladders arrived a few minutes sooner, she could have assisted in the saving of the children, and they might have all got out safely.
Miss Keyes said that there were about thirty children in her class when the fire first broke out, one of whom was Myrtle Spraggs, three years of age, who had come to the school as a visitor with her older sister, and both lost their lives.
SENT IN THE ALARMS.
Medical Inspector Met Smoke in the Corridor.
Dr. William Opzoomer, of 14 Darling street, medical school inspector, who sent the first message to No. 13 fire station, told how he came to notice the fire and send in the telephone alram:
"I left my house at about 25 minutes to two intending to go to the school in order to inspect a class whcih I had not been able to attend to the day before. I arrived at the school in about five minutes. Going into the corridor I saw smoke coming up through the floor. At the same time Miss Maxwell, the principal ran ou fo her class room and --- cried: 'Doctor, there's a fire ring the alarm.'
"I ran across Prefontaine street to Benoit's office in front of the school and telephoned Main 141, the fire alarm department. Then, to make sure, I ran down to St. Catherine street and pulled the alarm box at the corner and at the same time saw the reels coming out of No. 13 station, a couple of blocks up the street.
" I then ran back to the school and first induced Mrs. Hands, the caretaker, to come out. Then several other men along wth me tried to make our way into the building, but we were driven back by the smoke. Mr. Benoit and his men from across the street then raised a ladder to the second storey and bought Miss Keyes down. By this time the Fire Department ladders had arrived and four or five of them were raised to the second storey windows.
" I would judge that 15 minutes elapsed between the time I sent in the telephone alarm and the arrival of the ladders, when the last child was brought down alive, and not untill this time were they able to turn the water on the bruning building."
After inspecting all classes of the school but one the day before, Dr. Opzoomer said that on returning to his office made out his report. Opposite the space marked "Fire Protection" on the form, the doctor had written "Nothing of any kind." Dr. Opzoomer, explaining this, said: "I asked Miss Maxwell when I inspected the school yesterday, 'What have you in regard to fire protection?' and she said, 'Nothing but some little ropes.' I did not understand exactly what she meant by that, but I concluded that I as justified in filling in the words 'Nothing of any kind' in my report.
The doctor's report showed that there were 170 children in the school, though these would not be all in the school when the fire broke out, as one class did not return in the afternoon.
Dr. Opzoomer also intimated that had a proper system of ventiallation been in vogue in the school the smoke would have had a better outlet and there would not have been the same danger of asphyxiation.
Dr. Opzoomer, during his visits to the building as medical inspector, had found out that there was a fire alarm drill, the signal for which was three rings from the school bell, at which sound the children were supposed to fall into line two by two and march out of the building, irrespective of anything.
Two parties who are absolutely destitute as a result of the fire are Mr. and Mrs. Hands who acted as caretakers and lived on the top storey of the school. Mr. Hands was out of the building at the time of the outbreak, while his wife only managed to escape with the clothes on her back. They are both staying in Dr. Opzoomer's house in the mean-time. Both say they cannot imagine how the fire broke out, though it is conceded that it must have originated near the furnace.
SMOKE BLOCKED STAIRWAY
Pupils Formed in Fire-Drill Order Turned Back.
Miss Campbell who taught thesecond class, had one of the rooms on the second floor. She said: " It is hard to realize just how it all happened. About the only thing which is quite clear is that our principal will never come back! Our afternoon session begins at 1:15 and the fire started soon after, from the basement, where it was discovered by one of the boys. He at once ran upstairs and gave the alarm. My room was on the second floor, and just across the hall was the first year room, used for the kindergarten pupils in the afernoon. When the alarm was given, the pupils on the first floor, of the third and fourth years, filed out, and all were saved.
"The fire spread very rapidly. as soon as I heard the alarm and the noise, I hurriedly arranged the children according to the regualr fire drill, and started them down stairs, but the smoke was so dense and suffocating that most of them, I think about two-thirds, turned back. I got them back into the class room, and closed the door to try to keep some of the smoke out. We then went into the dressing room. There was no fire escape, but some men, I do not know who they were, put a ladder up to the window and ranged themselves upon it. I handed the children out through the window as many as I could find, for the smoke became so dense before they were all out tht it became impossible to distinguish anything in the room. Even after I was sure they were all out, I called aloud several times, but received no answer, so I am almost sure my pupils are all safe.
"I think th children who were lost were in the kindergarten room, where Miss Maxwell lost her life, but I am not sure. None of them had time to put on any of their wraps, and, of course, most of them ran home as soon as they were out, so that it was impossible to find out who was safe and who was not.
FIRE DRILL NO HELP
Stairway Impassible for the Little Ones.
Rev. Henry Jeckyll, of St. Matthias' Church, Hochelaga, many of whom Sunday school children were killed in the burning building, was early on the scene, doing all he could for the relatives of the victims.
His little son, Victor Jeckyll, a second year pupil in the school, was on the second floorat the time of the outbreak. When the cry of fire was heard, he made a rush for the door but on opening it the smoke nearly smothered him, though he had not presence of mind to pull his coat over his face. He then heard soemeone say to go to the window, and while making his way in that direction he was overcome and could not tell how he came to be taken down the ladder.
A firedrill no matter how well conducted, Rev. Jeckyll claims, could not have saved the childrenon the second floor when there was no way for them to go down but by the inside stairways. It was in connection with an outside fire escape that a system of quietly marching out was feasible.
Mr. Avila Tremblay of 1608 East Notre Dame street took prominent part in the rescue work performed, during the few minutesprevious to the arrival of the Fire Department ladders. He first noitced smoke coming out of the building when looking out out of one of the rear windows of his grocery store. No. 106 Moreau street. After finding it impossible to enter the school, he took a ladder out of his shed and raised it to one of the second storey windows, facing on Stadacona street. Claroux, a Great Northern railway checker, went up the ladder with him and took the children down as Tremblay received them from the arms of Miss Maxwell, while Mr. Lucien Nault, of 432 Alwyn received them below. They rescued a whole class- 25 in this manner. Then they went around to the front, where they helped to rescue about 12 more.
STORIES OF THE CHILDREN.
Pupils Tell of Scenes in Class Room
The story of fire as told by the children of the school was very simple.
Oswald Thompson, of Marlborough street, a lad of about 10 years old, had escaped and told his story to the Gazette as the school burned itself out. "I am in the fourth form with Miss Maxwell" he sadi; "and was at school in the afternoon, when a boy Willie Gilbert ran up to Miss Maxwell, and said the hall was full of smoke. Teacher then went out to see, and came back very white, and told us all to get dressed and hurry home. I saw the smoke right away, and as I was running out of the building I saw Miss Maxwell hurrying upstairs to try and save the little children up there. My brother was up there in the kindergarten, and he got out all right.
Frank Thompson, an eight year old pupil in the fatal kindergarten, had an interesting tale to tell--which was emphasized by his tear-stained cheeks, although he sturdily denied having been "scared" at any time.
"We heard the noise outside," said he, "and teacher went out to see. Then Miss Keyes came back and said: 'Class get your clothes and run right home.' Then the smoke came in, and a lot of children started to cry. There as not much noise, and I was not scared a bit, but the children seemed to be frightened. Most of them ran to the dressing room in front to get there clothes, and Miss Maxwell looked in an told usto hurry out.
"I and my brother ran downstairs first, but the stairs, were so full of smoke that most of the kids were afraid to go. Miss Keyes, the teacher, stayed to see us out, and when I went out I saw her getting her purse out of herdesk. When they got her out of the window she was almost dead. I ran home as fast as I could as soon as I got away."
Another little boy, Tom Hogan, was a pupil in the second class under Miss Campbell. He said there was a bell in Miss Maxwell's room which was used when the fire drill was give, which could be heard all over the building, but it had not been sounded.
"My teacher," said Tom, "went out into the hall, as we all heard a noise. She ran back, and seemed very much frightened and red in the face, and told us to get our things and run right home. We were on the top floor, and some of us just had our tuques under our seats, while the boys who had coats had to put them in the dressing room.
"I had my tuque with me, and ran out; and as soon as I got to the landing I saw the stairway full of smoke, while the boys and girls were crowding on it afraid to go down. I pushed through them and ran down to the front door, and hollered to the rest to come on, and a lot of them came. The smoke was so thick in the hall downstairs that it was just like running into the dark. I think the children who had to go to the dressing room to get their clothes were the ones in our class who got killed.
"My teacher, Miss Campbell," said the lad, "did not seem a bit afraid. She stayed right up there, and after we had got out of the door we stayed around, and after a while a ladder was up and I saw her helping lots of them through the window, and then one of the firemen got hold of her and she did not seem to know anything when they got her out and carried her down.
"I was looking up and saw the children being taken out of the kindergarten too, and then I saw Miss Maxwell at the window, with one of the children in her arms. She broke the window with her hand, and I saw it bleeding where she cut it. She got the boy out, and then seemed to fall back. Miss Keyes broke the window with her hand too, and cut it badly."
Asked as to fire drill, Tom Hogan said that they sometimes had it. In fact he remembered a fire drill last summer, and thought there might have been one since; but they very seldom had it, and when the alarm was giventhere was no thought of drill. the pupils just crushed out as they could to get their clothes and hurry out.
THE HEROIC PRINCIPAL
Someting About the Woman Who Sacrificed Her Life.
Miss Maxwell, who so heroically gave up her life, graduated at the Normal school in 1903, and has been principal in the Hochelaga School for the past four years. Her father was the late James Maxwell, the lumber merchant. Her brother, Mr. W. Maxwell, is manager for the latter. Messrs. Maxwell, architects on Beaver Hall are her cousins. She was a most unselfish lady and from the first has given herself entirely to her school. One sister is Miss Annie Maxwell, cashier in Alexander's. and another, the wife of Mr. W.J. Williams, of Winnipeg. She lived with her aged mother on St. Urbain street.
The schoolhouse, which was burned, consisted of two floors with a half storey above where the caretaker, Mrs. Hands, lived. She escaped but lost all her belongings. There were two staircases, one for the boys, the other for the girls. The connecting door was locked, which added to the difficulty of escape. It was an old building, erected long before Hochelaga was annexed to Montreal, and the lobbies and stairways were narrow, while the tortuous stairways made escape very difficult for the frightened children. The school commissioners admitted that it was not built upon modern lines.
SCENES AT THE MORGUE.
Heart-Broken Parents Identify Their Little Ones.
The scene at the morgue, where the bodies were taken, will ever be remembered by those who saw it. The first bodies arrived at 3 o'clock, in the ambulances, consisting of two little girls and four little boys. The bodies were quickly shuffled on the hoist and sent to the mortuary chamber, where they were laid out. Dr. Duncan McTaggart, the medical expert, was there, and took a cursory examination of the little victims as they were brought in. Of the first batch, two were burned on the hands and face, but it was found out, that as in the case of the others, death had been caused through suffocation chiefly. At 5 o'clock the ambulances brought seven more victims. Among them was Miss Sarah Maxwell, the lady principal. Her hands as well as the back of her neck were slightly burned, while a bruise on her nose indicated that she had fallen on her face. The bottom of her dark skirt was torn off slightly below the knee, while her pale blue bodice was charred and her hair dishevelled. Her tightly set mouth and slightly contorted features conveyed an impression of deathly resoluteness. As in the case of the other victims, it was found that Miss Maxwell had died from asphyxiation.
The remainder of the second batch consisted of five girls and one boy. Little Edith Lambton's face was charred, while the slightly tilted gold spectacles that the child was wearing added to the ghastliness of the scene. The remaining six victims were brought to the morgue shortly after the arrival of the second lot.
All the dead children were laid side by side on a platform, and covered. The row of little shoes projecting from beneath the white sheet was a heart-rending sight.
Sortly after the fire parents began to arrive. at the morgue in quest of their missing children. They were all turned away, and told to return at 7 o'clock in the evening, the morgue officials deeming it was better to delay the identification untill the fire was over. The first to call at the morgue in the afternoon was William Zimmerman and his wife, Hungarians, who live at 411 Aylwin street. They came to enquire about their only child, John, aged seven, who was among the dead. When told that they could not see the bodies, Mrs. Zimmerman broke down. The next to call was James Lindley, the machinist, of 198 Aylwin street, but, like the first callers, he had to go back home without visiting the mortuary chamber.
Fearing that the morgue would be invaded by the crowd, the officials telephoned to the central police station, and several constables were sent to be on guard at the door. However, this proved unnecessary, as there was no considerable gathering in the afternoon, Inquiries were made by telephone from all over town, in fact, one of the morgue officilas could do little but answer calls for an hour after the fire started till 6 o'clock.
Shortly after 6 o'clock the waiting room of the morgue was again crowded by anxious parents and relatives of the missing children. Besides these a crowd gathered on Notre Dame street, and the police had much difficulty in keeping them back. In order to expedite the identification of the victims, it was decided to admit only five or six at a time in the mortuary chamber. Whenever a body was identified, the name of the person identifying it was taken down, and the identifyer was then sent to deputy Coroner Biron's office to furnish additional particulars.
The scene at the mortuary chamber, when parents began to be admitted, was most pathetic. Terror was stamped on their features at the apprehension of finding their dear one among the victims. They approached the ghastly bier slowly, looking intently, as though they feared a blow. Husbands held their wives in their arms for fear that they would faint. As the mournful parents passed on in sad procession, the officials, newspaper artists and reporters stood with uncovered heads.
Accompanied by her sister, Mrs. Henry Jackson Andrew entered the mortuary chamber in a state of nervous excitement. Casting a quick glance over the row of victims her eyes finally rested on the body of her 6-year-old daughter Annie, and she sobbed aloud. Recovering somewhat, she leaned over and kissed the dead child several times, untill she had to be drawn back. Then the little victim's aunt did the same, and the sorrowful couple were ushered out of the room.
A young man who gave his name as Charles McLaren, of 123 Aylwin street, created quite a scene. He entered the room with several others, and instead of looking over the bodies, he sat down and cried aloud. At last he was assisted to the platform where the little victims were laid out, and began to examine them one by one. When he reached the end of the row he threw up his hands in ecstasy, declaring: "Thank God, my little Jenny is not here."
When questioned, he declared that his 9-year-old daughter was missing from home.
A woman, who gave her name as Mrs. Damase Greenwood, of 72 Moreau street, also came in search of her six-year-old daughter, Alice whom she declared to be missing. After looking over the bodies, she found that her daughter was not there, and departed visibly relieved.
Particularly sad was the case of Mr. Spraggs, who lost two of his children in the fire. Mr Spraggs is an invalid, and his wife died but a few weeks ago. He identified his two children last night, but he bore his misfortune with fortitude. His little girls were aged five and three years, and the younger one was visiting her sister for the afternoon.
Mr. William Hingston, who was instrumental in the saving of many of the children, came to the morgue to find his six-year-old daughter Florence among the dead. He made no comment.
Mrs. Thomas Forbes entered the mortuary chamber unattended, and when she saw the blackened body of her six-year-old daughter Cecilia, she almost collapsed. It was the same with Mrs. Lomas, her husband having to assist her out of the room.
In the case of little Edna Davey, one of the prettiest of the little victims, her mother returned to Montreal last night to find her daughter dead. Little Edna Davey was identified by her father, J. Davey, engineer, of 14 Marlborough street. The body of little Edith Lambton was the last to be identified, also by her father.
Shortly after 10 o'clock the mortuary chamber was closed, and the curiosity seekers aroud he building ordered to disperse.
Deputy Coroner Biron announced, that the enquete would begin this morning, as there is no necessity for a post mortem, seeing that in every case death was due to asphyxiation. Dr. Duncan McTaggert said that none of the burns sustained by the children were sufficient to cause death by themselves.